Marion County Commissioners approve Green Camp Township solar, wind restrictions

Six townships in Marion County have now instituted restrictions on the development of solar and wind energy projects.

On Thursday, the Marion County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to restrict solar and wind farm development in Green Camp Township. The Green Camp Township Trustees' resolution designates all unincorporated areas of the township as a "restricted area prohibiting the construction of an 'economically significant wind farm,' 'a large wind farm,' or a 'large solar facility,' as defined by the Ohio Revised Code.

Per Section 4 of Ohio Senate Bill 52, which went into effect on Oct. 11, 2021, the restrictions "shall not apply to any application for a certificate, or material amendment to an existing certificate, from the )Ohio) power siting board."

The county commissioners voted 3-0 to approve the resolution. Green Camp joins Big Island, Claridon, Pleasant, Richland, and Salt Rock as townships that have voted to restrict solar and wind farm development.

The county commissioners approved the Pleasant Township Trustees' resolution on June 7. The other four township resolutions were approved on Aug. 18. All of the resolutions were drafted with similar language.

Two property owners from Green Camp Township attended the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday to voice support for the resolution. Lynette Rice, who resides on her family's farm located on Mt. Olive-Green Camp Road, presented research that she has done about solar and wind farms to the county commissioners.

"I have a lot of concerns about the companies that have been in our township talking with our farmers about the leases (for property)," Rice told the commissioners. "I want to quote Commissioner Richard Gould from Greene County when they were facing the same decisions in August of this year. And he said, 'I'm a strong believer in landowner rights, but your landowner rights don't necessarily stop at your property line.'

"I'm concerned about the impact of this. I don't know if this will be the fight is over because I know how these companies seem to be operating in other counties."

Rice expressed concerns about the solar farm that is being built near Richwood in Union County and its potential effect on drainage and waterways in the area where it's located.

"I want to make the commissioners aware that there are steel pipes being driven seven feet into the ground which are crushing the systemic tile and affecting drainage to neighboring farms and neighbors in Union County with the construction that's going on currently with their solar farm," Rice said. "If you drive out (Ohio) 739, you can see that the topsoil has been scraped off. It's destroyed the woodlands. And even in Union County, they've noted that Bokes Creek now has a red tint."

Justine Martin Santschi, who is Rice's mother, said her family has owned and worked farmland in Marion County since 1880. She said numerous solar energy companies have contacted her family seeking to lease their property, which is located along Patton-Riley Road west of Green Camp and along Ohio 739. They also own property in Union County.

"As farmers, I believe that we are stewards of the earth," Santschi said. "And we need to take care of this land, not only for us, but for future generations. Topsoil is a resource, just like coal, iron, anything else."

Marion County Commissioner Andy Appelfeller said solar and wind energy companies continue to approach property owners in the county seeking to enter into lease agreements to build facilities.

Meanwhile, in Pleasant Township

Residents of Pleasant Township are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, Dec. 6 to hear information about the proposed Chestnut Solar LLC project. The meeting is set for 6 p.m. at Tri-Rivers Career Center, 2222 Marion-Mount Gilead Road.

According to the Ohio Power Siting Board website, Chestnut Solar is in the pre-application phase. The company's proposed electric generation would be placed on a 404-acre site in eastern Pleasant Township and have a capacity of up to 68 megawatts.

In July of this year, the Marion County Board of Commissioners approved an agreement with Marion County Solar Project LLC to build a solar farm in northern Marion Township. It's expected to generate $356,000 in annual revenue for the Ridgedale Local School District.

Marion County Solar Project LLC (MCSP) received approval from the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) in November 2021 to build a 100 megawatt solar energy facility on approximately 700 acres of land in Marion Township. The company has leased a total of 970 acres of land in the township from property owner Kepford-Gottfried, Inc.

The agreement between the county and Marion County Solar Project LLC calls for the company to pay $1 million to the county when construction of the facility begins and $1 million when the facility becomes operational.

Additionally, the agreement requires MCSP to make an annual payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to the county and other applicable tax districts (including Ridgedale Local School District and Marion Township) in the amount of $700,000, under terms of the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority tax exemption. That equates to $7,000 per megawatt.

The solar facility's property is bounded on the west side by POET Biorefining and agricultural land and on the east side by Ohio 423. The southern boundary runs along Marion-Williamsport Road West. The northern side of the property borders more agricultural land.

Email: ecarter@gannett.com | Twitter: @AndrewACCarter

This article originally appeared on Marion Star: Marion Co. Commissioners pass Green Camp Twp. solar, wind restrictions